January 28, 2013

Maine librarians see many endings to stories of overdue books


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Carol Cooley, a librarian at the Oakland Public Library, stands among some books available for checkout Thursday. Cooley recently called local police about a delinquent book borrower who had failed to return $200 in books.

Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

"Those are the ones that sometimes walk out the door without being checked out," she said.

She paused.

"Or maybe not," she said. "Maybe they fly out."


For most neighborhood libraries, an overdue book is different from, say, an unpaid phone bill.

"They know we know who they are," Jackson-Darling said.

The level of friendship and familiarity between a librarian and a regular patron can make things awkward for both sides when there's a problem.

In Waterville, Sugden is particularly eager to smooth over any unpleasantness that might accompany a late book return.

"People need to remember that librarians love them and don't want to cause them pain or stress," Sugden said.

Sugden herself knows how it feels to return a book late.

"There's a special kind of guilt for library books," she said. "When I return books late, I always feel sheepish. I feel sheepish and embarrassed."

Sugden said that she tries to be forgiving, particularly with children.

"For kids, it can be a source of great anxiety," she said. "We have a great deal of amnesty for youth. When we visit schools and let kids know they should be reading over the summer, we want to remove barriers."


If a book is returned late, it's OK; but if a book isn't returned at all, it's a problem.

In Oakland, Cooley said part of her decision to call police was because one book, Crawford's autobiography, came from a Connecticut library, which won't lend any more books to Oakland until it has been paid in full.

Waterville and Oakland police officials said they couldn't recall another instance in which they were asked to recover a library book.

The story took another turn Friday, when Oakland library aide Lisa Stevens said she happened to run into the delinquent patron in Walmart while doing some shopping Thursday night.

The patron apologized profusely, said she had the books in her car, and ran off to retrieve them while Stevens waited, Stevens said.

Twenty minutes later, Stevens said, she was still waiting. She eventually gave up and went home.

Friday morning, Eugene Roy, another library aide, noticed a moving truck outside the residence of the patron and went to her house in yet another attempt to collect the books.

He found the patron, who did not return calls to the Morning Sentinel, and returned with five of the seven missing books, including the Crawford book that had been borrowed through inter-library loan.

"I've got them right here in my hot little hands," Stevens said triumphantly. "It's a happy ending."

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287 or at:


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